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Judge Reinstates Subpoena Seeking Testimony From Cheney

DENVER -- A federal judge has reinstated a subpoena seeking testimony from former Vice President Dick Cheney in a lawsuit filed by a Colorado man. 

The judge on Monday overturned a federal magistrate's ruling that denied a motion to subpoena Cheney. 

Steven Howards was arrested in June 2006 after he walked up to Cheney in Beaver Creek and told him his Iraq policy was "disgusting." 

Agents called the incident an assault and arrested Howards, but a state prosecutor later dropped a harassment charge. Howards filed suit, alleging the arrest was in retaliation for disagreeing with Cheney and a violation of his constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unreasonable search and seizure. 

Howards' lawsuit accuses five federal agents of using the "color of state law" to deprive him of his federal rights. 

A magistrate originally ruled that other witnesses could provide information relevant to Howards' claim and that Cheney did not have additional information. Cheney's attorneys argued that Howards had to demonstrate "extraordinary circumstances" to depose a high-ranking official, a move meant to prevent frivolous lawsuits. 

U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello ruled that the cases cited by Cheney's attorneys dealt with situations involving decision making, not a situation where a high-ranking official is an eyewitness or participant in an event that sparked a lawsuit. 

"Furthermore, and perhaps more obviously, Mr. Cheney is no longer a high-ranking government official, so the court questions whether these cases are still applicable," Arguello wrote. 

James J. Gilligan, an attorney with the office of the vice president, did not immediately return a message left at his office after regular business hours. 

Denver attorney Sean R. Gallagher, representing federal agents Gus Reichle and Daniel Doyle in the suit, said the agents never objected to Howards' attempts to take Cheney's deposition. 

"Rather, our concern all along has been that Mr. Howards' attempts to turn this case into a media event have delayed the ultimate trial," Gallagher said in a statement. 

He said Reichle and Doyle are confident they will be vindicated by a jury once they're able to explain the circumstances surrounding the arrest. 

"Mr. Howards was arrested because he approached the vice president from behind, struck him on the shoulder, continued to loiter in the area, and when approached by the Secret Service, lied about what he had done, became profane and tried to flee the area," Gallagher said. "We believe that when all of the facts are made available in open court, the public will have confidence that the agents' actions were justified." 

Howards' attorney David Lane said agents have given conflicting accounts of Howards' interaction with the vice president, with at least one saying Howards shoved Cheney in the back and another saying Howards shook Cheney's hand and patted his shoulder. 

In seeking to question Cheney, Lane said the former vice president could provide details.
"Finally, we can get this case on track and finish trial preparations and take this case to trial," Lane said, adding the case is delayed pending Cheney's deposition. 

Howards has said he walked away after the alleged confrontation. He had dropped off one son at a piano recital nearby and was walking back through the area with another young son when he was arrested. 

His son was not detained.

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